New Lincoln program a haven for 90 ex-Horizon students

Newcastle charter school assists in home study startup
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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When Horizon Charter Schools closed its Rocklin and Lincoln sites in recent months, it left families scrambling to figure out where their children would continue their education.

Tuesday marked a new beginning for about 90 students, kindergarten through sixth-grade, thanks to the efforts of a parent group dedicated to continuing the curriculum they cherish for their children and the willingness of a school to extend a helping hand, organizers said.

Around 2 p.m., cars lined up outside the Lincoln Christian Life Center, previous home to Horizon’s Accelerated Learning Academy’s K-2 program, to pick up their children after the first day of study.

“Today is the first day of a very long, long, long road, bumpy road of getting the education we’re looking for, for our kids,” said Roseville’s Emily Webster, who picked up her kindergartner, James, as well as a few others in her carpool. “And it’s largely attributed to the staff of teachers that we’re so lucky to have, and the parent community is absolutely dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get our kids a quality education.”

On Oct. 11, parents received an email from Horizon CEO Craig Heimbichner informing them that, due to safety concerns regarding traffic and kids in the parking lot, the school would be closing in just a few days. The site had 391 students in the third- through eighth-grade ALA and the Rocklin Academy of Science, Math and Engineering for ninth- through 12th-graders.

Harvest Ridge Charter School in Newcastle took a group of the students on as a subcharter home study program, said Mike Hilmen, a leading member of the parent group organizing the new program, which they are calling Harvest Ridge Lincoln Core.

Because the Average Daily Attendance money the Lincoln Core program will receive from the state won’t be immediately available, Harvest Ridge is fronting the costs and will be remunerated once the ADA funds are received, Hilmen said.

In the agreement, Harvest Ridge will pay the salaries of Lincoln Core’s eight teachers and fund the curriculum, but the meeting location is fully funded by parent donations and it is staffed by parent volunteers, he said, emphasizing that it is not “site based.”

Harvest Ridge also paid for the teachers’ laptops that are needed since it is a home study program, he added.

“Harvest Ridge is taking a real leap of faith for us, and it has been tremendous, it’s everything,” said Hilmen, whose first-grader and fourth-grader attend the new program. “It’s the only reason we can do what we’re doing, and it is a very generous move on their part to do that.”

A message left at Harvest Ridge Charter School seeking comment Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Asked why Harvest Ridge would take them on their charter, Hilmen attributed it to “good will,” saying the Newcastle school can relate as it was just starting out two or three years ago, as well.

It has taken a great deal of sacrifice from parents and teachers to get the program off the ground, he said. The teachers have voluntarily taken a “huge” pay cut to be able to continue teaching the curriculum to their students, he said.

“They’re all here voluntarily because they love the kids and the program,” Hilmen said.

Parents have to pitch in on the daily responsibilities of running the meeting place for the study program, said Brandy Waters, another lead parent in the Lincoln Core organizing effort.

“Every parent is going to be required to put in hours,” said Waters, who has a first-grader and kindergartner in Lincoln Core. “We have to clean the facility every day, we have to clean the bathrooms, we have to supply (the facility) with supplies, we have to take out the trash, clean the gym.”

About 30 to 40 parent volunteers will be used on a weekly basis, Hilmen said.

The program continues the core knowledge, project-based curriculum the students had been learning at Horizon, Waters said.

She said Harvest Ridge had to alter its charter, because its curriculum differs from the one being implemented at Lincoln Core, and the changes had to be approved by the Newcastle Elementary School District.

The program meets four days a week at the Lincoln location, Waters said.

The process of finding a way to continue the students’ education in the program they began learning through Horizon was fueled by a feeling of desperation, she said.

“We were just running on pure desperation and the desire to keep everyone together,” Waters said. “We knew we had something we didn’t want to let go of.”

What happens beyond this semester is to be determined, and both Waters and Hilmen said their goal for the program to develop into its own charter school in the future.

While the uncertainty looms on the mind of Webster, she said she’s pleased the program has been able to continue.

“The most challenging part would be the unknown. We’ve had to be really flexible, really patient, but the best part is we have been able to preserve our program and curriculum with our teachers largely with a whole community that we started the year with,” she said. “Preserving the core of it, which the core knowledge curriculum is the heart of the whole program, and that’s really the desire for the families for their kids’ education.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews